Archive for February 5th, 2012

Scientific Research in the Arab World: Reality or fiction?

imageLast year, during the period from June 26-30, I attended the 25th conference of NAAMA (National Arab American Medical Association) in Le Meridien Hotel in Amman. During the conference, I heard many Arab American doctors stressing the importance of Medical Research for medical students who want to pursuit their higher studies in the USA and other western countries.

Because of how much this subject was stressed, I went back to my faculty with the goal of starting a research in whatever field of medicine. I set up this goal only to be later on shocked by how unrealistic is such a goal!

Frankly speaking, my university curriculum does not require students neither to prepare nor to publish any medical research as part of their undergraduate studies. In the USA, on the other hand, it is a different story. Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy, an Iraqi-American professor told me during the same conference:

Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy

Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy

“In contrary to the situation in our Arab countries, before graduating, US students are required to prepare at least one research”

The above sad fact is the most important obstacle that faced me. Firstly, I will find hardship in finding a professor that will be available solely for the aim of helping me in doing a research. Secondly, the huge time that any student will spend in doing a research would not be compensated with marks. Certainly, this will affect the university marks of the students who will be subtracting time from studying their university curriculum and investing it in a research.

Dr. Aiman Hamdan, a Jordan Unviersity of Science and Technology graduate (second batch), who is now a cardiologist in the United States and certified with seven boards, had the following to say regarding this sad fact:

Dr. Aiman Hamdan

Dr. Aiman Hamdan

“During my University years in JUST, if my father knew that I am doing a research and not studying to get high marks, he would have KILLED me!”

Source: Dr. Aiman Hamdan said the above comment in a lecture he gave –with other Arab-American doctors- about studying in the USA in King Abdullah University Hospital in Irbid in June 2011 as part of the activities of NAAMA’s 25th conference.

Despite the hardship mentioned above, I enrolled in two researches; lucky me!

image“Finally,” I happily thought, “I will be doing what students in developed country are doing!”.  “But could this be a reality? Is that possible?” I found hardship in accepting this very happy piece of news. But at the end… Why should I not hope? How are students in Harvard university better than me?[3]

I felt like I was finally going to achieve something! I will not only be graduating with a certificate, but also, having mastered how to prepare and publish a research! I felt too proud of the notion of having my name on a published research in a medical journal. Can you imagine how important is this achievement?

imageMy happiness did not last long. The first research ended because we discovered that we were collecting “useless” data that no conclusions can be drawn from it [Update 09.04.2012: This was a wrong conclusion. Things went differently than I and my colleagues calculated… It is one of the times in which you are happy when your calculations turn out to be wrong! Read more!]

The second reserach was very succesfful. However, due to deduction of the amount of credit our supervising doctors will get from including us in the publication, I refused to be included in the publication “initially”. Still, the supervising doctor refused but to include us in the publication. “I have an enlightening plan!” The doctor said. “I came back from abroad with a main aim of letting you do what I was taught abroad”. Truthfully, this doctor is sacrificying a lot by including us in the publication. What he is doing would be normal where he studied abroad, but is the situation the same here in the Arab world? Do universities in the arab wrold care about scientific research? Do our universities provides incentives to both doctors and students to do scientific research?

Frankly speaking, it seems that we have a problem… a big problem… How did I come up with this conclusion? But most importantly, who is responsible?


Every year, a report is published on the Academic ranking of World Universities (ARWU), commonly known as the Shanghai ranking. During the year 2011, the following statistics came out:

Universities that have been included in the top 500 world universities on the Shanghai ranking 2011:

Arab Universities[1]

Israeli Universities[2]

A. King Saud University (201-300)B. King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (301-400)C. Cairo University (401-500) A. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (57)B. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (102-150)

C. Tel Aviv University (102-150)

D. Weizmann Institute of Science (102-150)

E. Bar-Ilan University (301-400)

F. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (301-400)

G. University of Haifa (401-500)

Total: 3 universities Total: 7 universities
Arab countries v.s. Israel

Arab countries v.s. Israel

To summarize the above table:
Israel, a country with less than 8 million people, has 7 universities among the top 500 universities in the world. While 22 Arab countries with 355 million people, have only 3 universities in the same list!

Finally, and again and again, the first step in solving any problem is to recognize its existence in the first place. Is there a problem in our universities in the Arab world? It is left to your judgment!

So… I belive it is too unfair to attribute the problem to a single doctor, a single university, or a single country! As you can read above, it is a problem of…

[1] “KSU ranked leading arab university by shanghai world rankings”, King Saud University,, retrieved: 05.02.2012

[2] Reuveni, R. “Israel’s Universities are among the 500 top universities in the world”, retrieved: 05.02.2011

[3] According to 2011 Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, the world ranking of Harvard university is “1”!